I was homeschooled K-12 and was given a fantastic Charlotte Mason education—a philosophy of education that emphasizes “living books” and no textbooks at all. During High School I actually read through some of Charlotte Mason’s books myself. Even as a 17 year old I loved her philosophies and dreamed of the day when I could homeschool my own children with these amazing ideas.
And then I had children.
Life doesn’t always turn out like you had planned. Circumstances alter your dreams and make you face reality. I had to face a few hard facts after some painful homeschooling failures.
I’m not my mom, and I’m not walking in the same path she was in.
She was super organized, loved to make lesson plans and had 3 children. I’m a fly-by-my-seat type of mom who barely knows what we’re having for dinner before I start cooking it, let alone have a solid week of meal plans thought through. I also have 5, soon to be 6 children ages 11 and under. I own a clothing business online, I’m a blogger, and my husband recently graduated from college while being a pastor for one of his last two years and is now a pastor again—a huge task for a husband and father of five to do! Busy doesn’t even begin to describe our life!
When I first started exploring the possibilities of using textbooks I felt guilty inside. I was betraying everything I had been taught! It was even more emotional to me since my mom had passed away and I felt like I was letting her down.
However, I realized that textbooks are not as bad as some people make them out to be. Not all textbooks are created equal and it really is possible to find some good quality textbooks to use.
Here is what I look for in Textbooks
1. Are they interesting?
I always look through the textbook myself and see if I stay interested. We tried using Christian Light Education workbooks for science and history one year, and while the setup was great for a larger family, they didn’t hold my interest or that of my children. If you are bored to tears with a textbook, chances are there is a better one that suits the need of your family out there.
2. Are they consistent with our belief system?
While it can be difficult to find curriculum that always 100% matches our doctrine and belief systems, I don’t want to find something that is drastically different. For example, we are not Catholic so I don’t purchase Catholic curriculum.
3. Are the instructions clear enough for my children to follow through on their own?
I’ve seen some textbooks that are really good, but they require an immense amount of explaining from the teacher. If I have to be there the entire lesson, I’d rather just use a Charlotte Mason based curriculum. I either adjust that type of curriculum and make it work for us, or I just keep looking for something better.
4. Does it Resemble A Charlotte Mason Education?
You might be surprised but it is possible to find a textbook that more closely aligns with a Charlotte Mason education. I have our 5th grader in Notgrass History and I can’t begin to describe how happy I am with that curriculum. He is very interested in it, and I can tell he is learning a lot. The assignments that go along with it are excellent.
For science we use Apologia Science, which a lot of Charlotte Mason websites suggest as well. Another good science curriculum we have used is the Christian Kids Explore series.
Be creative in picking out your core textbooks and don’t feel like you have to do a one size fits all approach.
Creating a Love of Learning While Using Textbooks
I haven’t given up on my Charlotte Mason ideas. Because I’ve streamlined our homeschooling for the core subjects I feel the freedom to still add some of the extras as time allows. We made a lap book when we studied Bach, and I encourage my boys to read as much as they want (you can see an ultimate booklist for boys I’ve put together). My boys love to draw, make up poetry, and two of our children are currently taking private music lessons.
In short, I strive to build variety into my children’s education while ensuring that they have a twaddle-free education, even as we use textbooks for our main subjects. Every family has to decide what works for them and there is definitely not a one size fits all approach to homeschooling. The blessing is there are many choices out there and if you keep searching, you are sure to find the perfect fit!
Caroline Allen is blessed to be a wife to her beloved Sean, and mother to five children. She was home schooled all of her life by her precious mother, and now has started the whole adventure over again with her own children! Having been raised with a heart towards modesty, she started Deborah & Co., a clothing company that offers maternity and women’s clothes, plus toys, books and more for girls! Caroline is also a consultant for Lilla Rose where you will find beautiful hair clips. She would love to visit with you at her blog, The Modest Mom.